The design I chose for this exercise has been modified from a picture of a real fox. I sketched some images first and then copied the fox onto light newsprint, before proceeding with carefully cutting it out.
I then mixed the ink and I rolled it onto the glass plate, trying to obtain an even coloured layer. I placed the mask onto the plate and then printed off on simple cartridge paper. I was really pleased as my first attempt came out quite clear, even though I used water based inks, the process was quick enough to produce an interesting result.
I took a second impression from the plate, which is really faded, and then I removed the mask to take a third impression, also very confused.
After that, I started working with the positive image cut out from the mask, this time with a dark colour. I inked the plate, placed the cut out onto it and printed off. A very interesting effect was produced by the contrast between the dark background and the light silhouette, as it looked exactly as a fox that has just been spotted in the middle of the night.
I was not careful enough in printing the bottom of the image, so the second impression lifted more ink from that area.
But the most interesting result of all was obtained by printing a third time, after the cut out silhouette was removed. The figure is here defined by a blurred edge which I find really interesting.
I worked at this exercise with a second subject and obtaining the masks from tracing paper, rather than newsprint. When printing off the first time, from the negative mask, I realised straight away that it was a little too rich in small details, despite the simple design.
Also the ink felt weak, maybe because of the light colour chosen, so the second print was taken straight after lifting off the mask. The result is actually more interesting than the first one, but there are some imperfections due to the mask being creased under pressure.
Using tracing paper seemed to me a wonderful idea until I realised it got all curled up, didn’t really stick to the ink and also was too thick for the purpose. However, I kept going with the positive mask: the first print turned out to be very bad, as I couldn’t get any detail.
The ink looked again to weak for a second impression, so I jumped to print after lifting off the silhouette and that is where I got the best result. The details are quite defined and at the same time the blurry appearance matches with the subject.
I had a second go using the same masks but trying to use acrylics instead of printing inks. Unfortunately it didn’t work at all. The colour dried up in no time leaving just a faint impression of the image and the masks kept curling up, making the process quite difficult and messy.
I was quite frustrated by those experiments, but I definitely learned a lot from all the mistakes I made and discovered new interesting effects and textures.
I think Matisse’s Blue Nudes power lies in the ability of the artist depicting the subject in few sinuous lines. During the process I realised how difficult was to simplify an image and make it recognisable. I kept it simple by choosing to represent the subjects from a side view, but Matisse’s point of views keep the images vibrant and with a sense of tridimensionality.